"By becoming man, the
renews the cosmic order of creation;
By coming into the world, the eternal Word
invites us to the feast of his light."
St. John Paul
My earliest aspiration as a small child was to be an astronaut.
Well, that obviously didn't come to fruition - though it was fun to
pretend going to the moon in spaceships constructed with kitchen
chairs, blankets, and assorted cookware. That was in the late 60s
and early 70s, when NASA's Apollo space program was still going.
Space travel was still a relative novelty at that point. One of my
earliest memories is watching on television the Apollo 11 mission
of landing the first human beings on the moon in July 1969 (when I
was nearly 4 years old). I was fascinated by it all.
Many of the photographs of Earth taken by the Apollo astronauts
and their forerunners are still breathtaking and very much suitable
for contemplating "higher realities." Of course, in this age of
satellite images and instant communication, such photographs are
easily taken for granted today. Still, they remain as stunning and
as historically significant as when they were first taken.
The "Blue Marble" photograph of Earth, taken by Apollo 17
astronauts in 1972 (shown alongside this post), is still one of the
most recognizable images in history. Although portions of our
planet had been previously captured on film by other Apollo
missions and satellites (a rocket-launched camera provided our
first partial view of Earth in 1946), the "Blue Marble" is the
first "full-view" image of the Earth taken from space.
In any event, those years of space exploration afforded the
human race its first opportunity to look back at itself as unique
inhabitants of the same small planet within a seemingly endless
universe. Such a "look in the mirror" can provide sorely needed
proportion to our human struggles -- and hopefully, a sense of
compassionate solidarity. Then, there are the even bigger questions
-- "Who are we?" and "Where did all this come from?" and "What is
So, what does all this have to do with
Christmas? Well, today we celebrate the
incarnation of Christ, the birth of a Savior into this very world
we inhabit, into this human history that is still unfolding. In
that instant, with Christ later fulfilling from the cross his plan
of redemption for all humankind, God "re-created" us after the
pattern of the first creation, with a twist - he became one of us.
All God asks is that we accept within our hearts the gift of Light
that he offers. Then, when Christ comes again, God will look upon
all he has remade, and call it very good.
In 1968, the astronauts on the Apollo 8 mission became the first
to orbit the moon (they did not land). Thus, they were the first
human beings to see the Earth from space as an entire planet, and
the first to witness "earthrise," which they filmed. And on a
special Christmas Eve television broadcast, the Apollo 8 astronauts
shared this experience with the world while reading the first 10
verses from the Book of Genesis (something that is unlikely to ever
The video here replays
this moment in our history and offers - 47 years after it was
recorded - some images and thoughts still very much worthy of
reflection. Indeed, for all of us who inhabit this strange planet
in this vast universe, the Creator's words still echo and knock on
the doors of our hearts: "Let there be Light!"